JoniMitchell.com has posted information about Michelle Mercer’s book Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell’s Blue Period, set for release on April 7, 2009. The site has an image of the cover, as well as text from the book jacket’s copy, which reveals that the book was written with Joni’s cooperation. You can pre-order a copy at Amazon.com (and help give back a little to JoniMitchell.com).
Joni Mitchell is one of the most celebrated artists of the last half-century, and her landmark 1971 album Blue is one of her most beloved and revered works. Generations of people have come of age listening to the album, inspired by the way it clarified their own difficult emotions. Critics and musicians admire the idiosyncratic virtuosity of its compositions. Will You Take Me As I Am looks at Blue to explore the development of an extraordinary artist, the history of songwriting, and much more.
Writer Michelle Mercer spent a significant amount of time hearing firsthand about Mitchell’s internal and external journeys as she composed the largely autobiographical albums of what Mercer calls her “Blue Period,” which lasted through the mid-1970s. Incorporating biography, memoir, reportage, criticism, and original interviews into an illuminating narrative, Mercer moves beyond the “making of an album” genre to arrive at a new form of music writing.
In 1970, Mitchell was living with Graham Nash in Laurel Canyon and had made a name for herself as a so-called folk singer notable for her soaring voice and skillful compositions. Soon, though, feeling hemmed in, she fled to the hippie cave community of Matala, Greece. Here and on further travels, her compositions were freshly inspired by the lands and people she encountered as well as by her own radically changing interior landscape. After returning home to record Blue, Mitchell retreated to British Columbia, eventually re-emerging as the successful leader of a jazz-rock group and turning outward in her songwriting toward social commentary. Finally, a stint with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue and a pivotal meeting with the Tibetan lama Chogyam Trungpa prompted Mitchell’s return to personal songwriting, which resulted in her 1976 masterpiece album, Hejira.
Mercer interlaces this fascinating account of Mitchell’s Blue Period with meditations on topics related to her work, including the impact of landscape on music, the value of autobiographical songwriting for artist and listener, and the literary history of confessionalism. Mercer also provides rich analysis of Mitchell’s creative achievements: her innovative manner of marrying lyrics to melody; her inventive, highly expressive chords that achieve her signature blend of wonder and melancholy; how she pioneered personal songwriting and, along with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, brought a new literacy to the popular song. Fans will appreciate the previously unpublished photos and a coda of Mitchell’s unedited commentary on the places, books, music, pastimes, and philosophies she holds dear.
This utterly original book – the first one about Joni Mitchell written with her participation – offers a unique portrait of a great musician and her remarkable work, as well as new perspectives on the art of songwriting itself.
Michelle Mercer, a regular contributor to National Public Radio, is the author of the critically-acclaimed biography Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, Down Beat, and elsewhere. She lives in Colorado and Bahia, Brazil.